Building an Outdoor Cat Shelter, Part I

Helter Shelter

This week, I’m working on building an outdoor cat shelter for our strays. It’s going to be purrfect! I fully expect to be the talk (meow?) of the kitty neighborhood with this little cat crib. I found a bunch of ideas online, but none of them spoke (meowed?) to me, so I decided to design my own. Hey, how hard can it be?

Egor in the cooler ice chest

A couple of weeks ago, I told you guys about the surprise cats we discovered living on our property. We had no idea they existed, since they never show themselves during the day. There were only two that we knew about, but since then, we’ve spotted a third on our Ring camera. And it’s spotted! Yup, we spotted a spotted cat and we’ve named it Moo Cat. (The other two are Gray-C and Caterina, in case you were wondering.)

Moo Cat Gif

If you have feral cats that you’d like to build a shelter for, and you’re not a crazy person, perhaps you will be satisfied with this option made from plastic storage bins. If that is the case, then I thank you for stopping by. You may go meow now. That is not what I will be making here. You had to know that, right? No, I will be taking another trip to Crazy Town, where the motto is, “Go big or go home.”

So… wanna come with? Sure you do.

Entering Crazy Town_1000px

Let me start by saying that, in Crazy Town, we pretend that money is no object, (Of course… it is an object. It’s a big, fat, freaking object. We just pretend that it’s not.) and then we proceed to spend way too much of it. On a cat house. Because, in Crazy Town, we go BIG. (Or we go home.) I promise I will give you a tally of everything I’ve spent on this project in Part II. (I actually haven’t added up my total yet. I’m afraid to.) For this post, let’s just pretend that it doesn’t even matter. (But it totally does.)

At the heart of my project is this cooler.

Cooler Ice Chest

It should be sufficient for two or three cats at one time. I know it looks small, but cats know how to Tetris their squishy kitty bodies around each other to fill up a space pretty well. Plus, a smaller space will trap their body heat and keep them warmer than a bigger box would.

Speaking of Tetris, here’s my plan…

Exploded plan for outdoor cat shelter

I know, right? There’s a lot going on there. I promise to give you the particulars in the “build” post (Part II), but this is just the “plan” post, so let’s save those questions for later, alrighty?

Basically, it’s a cooler inside of a plywood box and it’s sitting on a base of pressure treated lumber. (That’s special wood that’s treated so it’ll hold up to the elements.) Those holes are for airflow, in case water gets under the box somehow. I want it to be able to dry out so it doesn’t get moldy and gross.

I know. I think of everything.

I made sure to design the box with a cover so I could get in there and clean it in the spring.

Or… maybe Schmoopy will get in there and clean it in the spring… Oh, yes. I like that much better.

Drawing of outdoor cat shelter

I’m going to add some foam insulation between the wood box and the cooler for extra warmth and I’m also going to include this little heating pad I got on Amazon. It says it’s safe for outdoor use. (Remember, we’re in Crazy Town. Stray cats get heated beds in Crazy Town.)

Heated Pet Bed for outdoor cat shelter

And I found this little cat door that wasn’t very expensive. (In for a penny, in for a pound in Crazy Town…)

Ideal Cat Door for outdoor cat shelter

Guys, how exciting is this? I’ve even got a few more ideas in mind to make this cat shelter truly at home in Crazy Town. I think I’ll save them for Part II so you have something to look forward to. (You know, besides the finished project…) You should probably subscribe below so you can find out what those ideas are and see how this whole crazy thing turns out. I hope it’s not a catastrophe… (See what I did there?)

I just love being a homeowner! (Help me. I can’t stop.)

***Time travel links! This series on building an outdoor cat shelter is now complete! It all started with Part Zero (when we discovered we have stray cats), then Part I (which you just read) which is all about the plan, Part II, where I show you exactly how I built the shelter, and Part III (my favorite part!) where I show you just how unnecessarily expensive and detailed a house for cats can be.

*This post contains affiliate links and cat puns.

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  • Sandra

    You are a cat lady to my heart – I would totally go with you to Crazytown if I didn’t live there full time already (‘wanna leave everyone and everything you know and move 8000 miles away’ ‘uh, sounds fun, when do you wanna go?’ – still here 29 years later..). If word of your 5 star kitty condo gets around you might have to expand ?

    • My Crappy House

      I thought of that! If these kitties start bragging about their new digs, I could be in trouble…

    • Sally Magdaleno

      Hi! You made me laugh, you made me say “ahhh” with eyes full of wonder. Thank you. Am looking forward to more. : )

    • My Crappy House

      Two of my favorite things are making people laugh and filling their eyes with wonder. #bloggoals

  • Chris

    We have that heated pad, too. And a heated water dish. And we live trapped this spring because some asshole shot our stray, and I got bit. I work for a veterinarian, so I got put on antibiotics right away. We fixed her up, vaccinated her, and since she was already spayed, she now lives in our orchard near my husbands “getaway” cabin he built. She eats better than our housecats.

    • My Crappy House

      Ugh! People suck! I’m already worried about these cats because we live on such a busy road. I hope I don’t have to worry about some jackass shooting at them. I’m happy your stray is living the dream

  • Lisa B(ag)

    Can I just meow, wow (meow)? You are so ameowzing and talented. Crazytown is the place to be, apparently. I would love to move to that town, actually. Meow. Just… meow. And also? Meow.

    • My Crappy House

      You and me both! I plan to put it in the driveway to start where we can see it on the Ring camera. Once I know they’re using it, I’ll relocate it near the back yard. I hope they like it!!!

  • SusieQ

    Being a cat-mom myself, I totally get it! We have 2 indoor cats, but feral cats need love (& a home, too!) My husband said he already loves you guys – because if you are this amazing to cats, you HAVE to be good people! To be honest, I was never even an animal person until I met hubby – it was a “package deal!” Husband came with 2 cats. I love them as much as if I’d had birthed them myself (which is as close to childbirth as I will ever get! ha ha ha)

    Can’t wait to see/read about the finished project! GO BIG!!

    • My Crappy House

      We love animals over here and I’m happy that you’re now an animal person too, thanks to your husband! This project is getting crazier by the day. I am definitely going BIG!

  • em

    Well, this will be a cooler full of clever! I love that you’re looking out for the ferals…y’all get those nor’easters and those kitties will indeed be chilly.

    When I was little, a fence next to our house created an “alley” that offered cats some four-season protection and an excellent place to party. From experience, I would only suggest you don’t locate it next to where you sleep, haha.

    Seriously…I love this thoughtful idea!

    • My Crappy House

      Haha that’s good advice. I don’t want to be kept up by the neighborhood cat parties… I’m sure my ferals would be hosting, what with the fancy house I’m building them. (Which will definitely be located on the opposite side from our bedroom. Much closer to our neighbor’s bedrooms, actually… lol)

  • Phoebe

    I loved this up to the door point. Don’t use the door! It will be warm enough without it. But if you put the door I don’t think there will be enough air going in, and the kitties might suffocate while sleeping!

    • My Crappy House

      Hmm… You have an excellent point! I don’t want to kill the very kittens I’m trying to save! The cooler is designed to be air tight. Perhaps I will put in a little curtain to keep the wind out, but let air circulate. Thank you for bringing this up!

  • Marianne

    I am so happy you are making a cat house for your feral cats. That is so kind of you and I think you are the neighborhood “cat lady” now (which is a good thing). ?. You may want to place the cat house by some shrubs if you have any to make it more private for the cats. The feral cats that I fed liked to hide and feel safe in their surroundings. Good luck and I look forward to your next update.?.

    A fellow cat lady.❤️

    • My Crappy House

      I’m worried the other neighborhood cats are going to find out and show up at my door… But I gotta do it! I plan to put it on the side of my house in a relatively private area. I’ll definitely post pictures in the next post!

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